Rafael Payarre debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was not an easy gig. Replacing Charles Dutoit, who has stepped down as principal conductor of the orchestra for the infamous reasons we all know, put extra pressure on. Dutoit only two concerts during RPO 20172018 season were the only two ones scheduled to happen in the Royal Festival Hall instead of in the smalled Cadogan Hall because his name used to attract more audience.

Payarre presence over the podium is engaging. With an elegant tight tailcoat and his signature afro styled hair used wide baton movements that were easy to follow by the audience.

Strauss Don Juan performance was vigorous and communicative. The orchestra followed efficiently Payarre subtle circular dynamics gradations that contributed to create a narrative line.

With Mozart Symphony No.35 things didn’t go so well. Although the extreme movements were in general fluid the central ones were boring. Being Payarre a very physical conductor, it was clear from his movements that he was less passionated about them, without anything interesting to contribute to the symphony.

Back to Strauss. This time Don Quixote with Alban Gerhardt playing the cello. And this was the treat of the concert. Gerhardt got a rich sound from his instrument and Payarre took much care in avoiding the orchestra overlapping him while still shining.